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Victoria Nuland is Interviewed about Aiding Ukraine; Russian Tycoon Slams War; Democrats Defect Over Title 42. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 20, 2022 - 08:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, the U.S. is preparing another $800 million military assistance package for Ukraine, according to three senior administration officials. That comes just a week after the Biden administration authorized the last $800 million military assistance package. And if this one is approved, it would bring the total aid from the United States to Ukraine to more than $3 billion.

Joining us now to discuss all of this is the undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

I'd like to start with these Ukrainians who are trapped inside the steel plant that they say is surrounded by Russian forces. And the Ukrainian commander is begging for help, asking a third country to conduct an extraction.

Is that something that the United States would be willing to do?


What we are seeing in Mariupol, the surrounding and sieging of the city, the fact that the Russians have not allowed civilians to get out for days, just speaks to the brutality of this war and Putin's tactics in Ukraine, and the war crimes that he is committing. The Ukrainians have been trying for a number of days to negotiate a safe passage for civilians and for wounded fighters. There was some hope earlier this morning that the Russians might allow that. There will be NATO allies involved in that is my understanding, if it happens, but primarily the Russians have to allow safe passage if it's going to happen. And this has fallen apart a number of times before.

COLLINS: Well, this Ukrainian commander is naming President Biden directly in his pleas, saying, quote, we believe that this is one of the few people who can really influence and solve this situation in a short time. Is that something that the United States would be able to help with, do you think?

NULAND: Well, we've made absolutely clear from the beginning of this that civilians and the wounded need to be able to get out of the battle zone, that humanitarian corridors need to be allowed. This is basic under the wars of law, and further to the way Putin is behaving in this war, that he is violating every basic principle of human decency. So, we'll see if it's possible this time, but we are certainly strongly supporting this and pressing for it.

But I think this commander was also talking about the fact that the U.S. and our allies, as you made clear, have been providing a steady and increasing supply of weapons to Ukraine and we've been adjusting what we provide to the Ukrainians needs as this war changes. And we will continue to do that.

COLLINS: Well, that brings me to my next question, which is about this new package that CNN is hearing about.

When do you think that new $800 million package will be announced?

NULAND: Well, we'll, obviously, wait for the announcement. I think that's most important is that we are listening to the Ukrainians as this war changes. Russia, as you know, is now planning to mass its forces from the east and come in heavy that way, which changes what they need. They need our -- heavy artillery. They need long range rocket systems. They need anti-ship missiles of the kind that they were able to use on the Russian ship in the Black Sea, the Moskva, their flagship, just a couple of days ago. And that's what we and our allies are assembling and continuing to get into Ukraine as these Ukrainians fight so bravely for their freedom, but also for the principle of freedom and sovereignty for all of us.

COLLINS: Should we expect those items, that kind of long range artillery, to be included in this new package?

NULAND: I'm going to wait and let you see the announcement. But suffice to say that that's what's needed most, and we will provide what what's needed most.

COLLINS: President Zelenskyy said overnight that if Ukraine had gotten them in the first week of this invasion, what allies are sending now, that the conflict might already be over. He said that, quote, any delay in helping Ukraine gives the occupiers an opportunity to kill more Ukrainians.

What does the U.S. say back to that?

NULAND: What I would say is, as you -- as you made clear at the top of your story, the United States has provided more than $3 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine. Our allies have matched that. So, double that amount over the course of this year.

We were also the first to warn that Russia would invade Ukraine, starting as far back as late October, November. I think even the Ukrainians couldn't imagine the horror of what is happening now. But I think it's a direct result, not only of their bravery and their courage and their skill on the battlefield, but the fact that we've been working with them and training them, as have other NATO allies, for some eight years that they are able to stand up to the onslaught of the Russian army.


COLLINS: But on this idea that maybe the U.S. waited too long to send in the heavier duty stuff, which was in that package announced last week, which we are potentially expecting in this one, did they wait too long to send the more sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine?

NULAND: Again, Kaitlan, what I would say is, at the beginning of this fight, when we worried that Putin could take Kyiv in five days, what the Ukrainians needed then was what we were sending then, stinger weapons, javelin anti-tank systems. Now, as Putin changes his tactics, as he fails to take the capital city and has to moderate his expectations and just come in from the east, what Ukraine needs is different. They need these long-range fires. They need this anti-tank weaponry that we're sending now. And they need the anti-ship weapons.

And so we are adjusting as Ukraine's needs have adjusted. But what's most important is the incredible strength and bravery that the Ukrainians are showing on the battlefield.

COLLINS: Absolutely, regarding that last part.

One more question before you go. I would love to know the status of the State Department potentially labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Something that we know President Zelenskyy has directly asked President Biden to do.

NULAND: Well, Kaitlan, we are continuing to look at that. There are a series of specific criteria. And, you know, as this war goes on, you know, they are finding their way to more and more of these. But it's a specific set of criteria. We will continue to evaluate it as the brutality in front of our eyes continues. And we will see what this war brings.

But right now our hearts need to be with the people of Mariupol and in the east of Ukraine as they prepare for the next onslaught from Russia.

COLLINS: Well, we look forward to seeing where that evaluation goes.

Victoria Nuland, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

NULAND: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Also new this morning, a Russian banking tycoon is now blasting Putin's war on Ukraine, calling it, quote, crazy, and saying that 90 percent of Russians don't support it.

Here in the United States, a big question mark on the future of the federal mask mandate, one day after a judge blocked it and made it ineffective. Why the White House might try to reinstate it and what that depends on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: In a rare, public rebuke of the Kremlin by a Russian, a Russian billionaire denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. Oleg Tinkov, he's the founder of Russia's massive Tinkov Bank, says the war is, quote, insane. He's calling on the west to do more to stop this massacre, interestingly, but to offer President Putin a dignified way to withdraw, to do that.

CNN's Nic Robertson, he is live in Brussels, Belgium, with more.

Nic, you've covered Russia for years here. Explain what risk he's taking and just how rare a public criticism like this is.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's incredibly rare. It's incredibly, incredibly rare that somebody of the sort of oligarch stature of a pillar of those who have sort of supported Putin in the past would come out against President Putin. We've seen other oligarchs over the past decade or so who have come out against Putin. They've ended up behind bars. They've ended up in jail. They've had to serve lengthy sentences and have essentially been ushered out of the country once they've been released. So, he's risking it all by saying this.

This is incredibly harsh criticism, calling the war insane, questioning in essence President Putin's very leadership, not just at the time of the war, but in creating this army that has failed to deliver on Putin's expectations, you know, saying it's essentially an environment of civility, of nepotism. An environment that's created an army that can't fight. So this is direct criticism for President Putin.

He goes on to say 90 percent of Russians don't believe in the war. It doesn't seem like something standing alone that Putin is going to listen to and is more likely to want to turn off that voice, silence him, quite how that happens, not clear. But this is -- this is not going to go down well inside the Kremlin, let's put it that way.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, it's haunting even to say that because Putin has proven he's willing to silence voices in a number of ways right up to killing. But something we'll be watching closely.

Nic Robertson, thanks so much.

There are new reports this morning that now Russian tennis players will be banned from the upcoming Wimbledon tennis tournament. Could other tournaments follow suit?

And the Biden administration considering extending a Trump era border restriction amid intense pressure from within Biden's own party. Your "Reality Check" is next.



COLLINS: It's time now for the "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

A zoo in Kharkiv, Ukraine, says two of its workers who stayed behind to feed the remaining animals were shot and killed by Russian soldiers. Their bodies found barricaded in a room as the zoo is now praising the courage of those two employees.

Wimbledon is set to announce that the Russian and Belarusian players are banned from playing in this year's tournament because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Belarus' support of it. That means three of the top 20 women's tennis players and two of the top 20 men's will miss out.

The Justice Department says it will appeal a federal court ruling that struck down the government's transportation mask mandate, but only if the CDC determines that the mandate is still necessary.

Johnny Depp is set to take the stand once again this morning in his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp says he was hurt financially after she wrote in a 2018 "Washington Post" op-ed suggesting that he was abusive. Depp told the court that he has, quote, never struck any woman in his life.

Prince Harry is speaking out about his recent surprise visit with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.


PRINCE HARRY: It was great. It was just so nice to see her. You know, she's on -- she's on great form. We always -- she's always got a great sense of humor with me and I'm making sure that she's, you know, protected and got the right people (ph).



COLLINS: Those are the "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. You can go to to do so.

New this morning, Axios is reporting that the Biden administration is considering -- reconsidering its plan to rescind Title 42 following growing pushback from within its own party. The Trump era policy restricting migration at the U.S./Mexico border was supposed to end on May 23rd.

John Avlon has our "Reality Check."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Title 42 is an unlikely flashpoint. Not to be confused with the '80s (INAUDIBLE) pop band Level 42.

Title 42 is an immigration restriction put in place by the Trump administration's CDC at the start of the pandemic. And now the Biden administration is set to sunset it in May. Except for the fact that a half dozen Democratic Senate candidates from swing states are pushing back. Hard.

Not only that, two senators up for re-election, Arizona's Mark Kelly and New Hampshire's Maggie Hassan have signed on to bipartisan legislation to delay its end. All told, at least nine incumbent Democratic senators have expressed concerns about this, including Homeland Security Committee Chair Gary Peters. So, this is as close to a mutiny as we've seen from Democrats.

But they're reacting to rational concerns because everyone expects a further surge of migrants at the southern border when the restriction ends and no one seems a robust plan in place to deal with it. This is not too much to ask because things are already escalating as this graph from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows. Encounters at the southern border have been much higher these past two quarters compared to the past three years. And that's after border encounters hit a 21- year high last July and then surged even higher this past March.

Now, this is not evidence of open borders, people. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's the people who have been stopped by the CBP. But it is evidence that more people trying to cross the border, many illegally, and that's a political as well as a practical problem. But the CBS/YouGov poll last month showing that 62 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling immigration.

Now, the ironic twist is that Title 42 may actually be contributing to the volume of attempted illegal border crossings. Get this, border officials have found that repeated crossings jumped from 7 percent of all apprehensions before Title 42 to 34 percent by the end of 2020. Some people make multiple attempts in a few weeks' time. And, in part, that's because that while Title 42 allows for quick expulsions from the country, often 15 minutes rather than an hour and a half according to the Migration Policy Institute, border agents say the people are often deposited on the other side of the border without any penalties or fines imposed, let alone being sent back to their home country. And that's why CBP officials have said that the rules negatively affected law enforcement. They say they don't have the chance to gather intelligence on illegal activities.

So, no wonder the dissenting Democrats are saying there needs to be a plan in place so that the summer surge doesn't become a tsunami. Well, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. And that's where the Biden administration seems tied up in knots, citing complex force that lead people to come up from Central America, while also being afraid to catching flak from the left if there's more aggressive border enforcement.

The real deal, of course, is that none of this is going to get solved without comprehensive immigration reform. And that means addressing factors driving migration, strengthening border security, and fixing the broken immigration system to allow for more legal immigration. If only someone had proposed that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We need to secure our border and fix the immigration system.


AVLON: You see that? Even Ted Cruz was applauding. But, spoiler alert, he's not actually going to vote for it. Even the two remaining Republicans from the so-called Gang of Eight who supported comprehensive immigration reform with Democrats almost a decade ago have been running away from it ever since.

So, the immigration debate is a classic Washington stalemate. Politico's make more money fearmongering and fund-raising off a problem than they do actually fixing it with a balanced, bipartisan plan.

Now, the war in Ukraine has reminded many Americans of the patriotic reasons to welcome refugees into our country. But when it comes to the southern border, people still reflexively retreat to their partisan corners. And amid these reports that the Biden administration is now considering a delay in their Title 42 plans, it's a reminder that while increased legal immigration is America's life blood, there's just no constituency for the appearance of chaos along the border.

And that's your "Reality Check."

COLLINS: John Avlon, thank you.

Ukraine is releasing new audio of a Russian commander in Mariupol discussing plans to, quote, level everything to the ground.

CNN is live in Ukraine coming up.

Plus, remember this heart-stopping rescue?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go, go!


COLLINS: We meant it when we said heart-stopping. That emotional reunion between the pilot and the quick-thinking officers who saved his life is up next.


COLLINS: It's time for "The Good Stuff."

An emotional reunion after the LAPD officers who saved a pilot from an oncoming train after his plane crashed on the tracks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go, go!



COLLINS: At an appreciation event to honor the officers, the pilot, Mark Jenkins, got to thank them for putting themselves at risk to pull him to safety.


MARK JENKINS, PILOT: I told them I loved them, and thank you for saving my life.


COLLINS: Now that is an inspiring way to start your day.

I'm Kaitlan Collins. Thanks so much for joining me this morning.

CNN's coverage continues right now.